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The Best and Worst Drafts in Trail Blazers History

Thursday, June 25, 2015


Whilst we wait on what looks to be an uneventful Portland Trail Blazers draft tonight and perhaps ponder the final days of LaMarcus Aldridge in a Portland uniform, let's spend a moment to review the best and worst drafts in the franchise’s 45-year history.

For this exercise, the criteria to evaluate what defines “best” and “worst” will be the entirety of that year’s draft, not just one ignominious selection.

Sorry, fans who automatically slot the 1984 draft in the “historically awful” category because the Blazers whiffed on Michael Jordan and took injury-prone Sam Bowie instead, Why? In that same draft -- proving that there are gems to be mined in the second round -- Portland used the 46th overall selection to choose mainstay Jerome Kersey who played in two Finals for Portland and ended up in the franchise's top-five lists for games, points, rebounds and steals.

And with apologies for being counter-intuitive, the “worst” list also does not include the 1972 draft when Portland somehow misused the top pick overall on the underwhelming LaRue Martin. In that same draft, the Trail Blazers also chose two players who ended up as significant contributors on the 1977 championship team -- Lloyd Neal and Dave Twardzik (though Twardzik first played in the American Basketball Association for four years).

So without further ado and using our best 20-20 hindsight, here are the three best and worst Trail Blazers drafts.



1973: Close call here. In 1987 draft, Portland wasted the 17th pick overall on Ronnie Murphy, who played all of 18 games before washing out. In the 1973 draft, Portland used the #15 pick overall to select Barry Parkhill, who played three nondescript ABA seasons and never suited up for Portland.  A slightly higher pick who never played for the Blazers? That’s worthy by a nose of qualifying as the team’s third-worst draft.


2004: How, you may ask, can you rank this one of the worst drafts when the Trail Blazers ended up with four guys who played for them? Easy when their names are Sebastian Telfair, Sergei Monia, Viktor Khryapa and Ha Seung-jin.

Portland chose Telfair, a highly touted high school player who was the subject of a book while still a teen-ager, before Al Jefferson, Josh Smith, JR Smith, Dorrell Wright, Jameer Nelson, Beno Udrih, Kevin Martin, Anderson Varejao and Trevor Ariza – all of whom have played in the league for more than a decade. Telfair turned out to be tremendously overrated. Neither Monia and Khyrapa played much on horrific Portland teams. And Seung-jin took the phrase “lumbering center” to new depths (painful video evidence if you need it). 


2007: OK, we're not completely counter-intuitive. Two words: “Greg Oden.” Enough said.



1970: Lots of competition here. Hard not to go with 1974 when Portland made up for its LaRue Martin pick two years earlier by using the top selection to choose Bill Walton, who after two underwhelming injury-filled seasons was the centerpiece in 1977 for the Trail Blazers’ only title. Or the 2012 draft when Portland chose Damian Lillard, Meyers Leonard and Will Barton--this one could qualify eventually if Lillard continues on his trajectory and Leonard maintains his surprising progress from last season.

But we’ll go with 1970 when the Trail Blazers did incredibly well with the first selection in team history, choosing Geoff Petrie with the eighth overall pick.

All Petrie did over the next six years was share the Rookie of the Year award, make two All-Star teams and serve as the face of the franchise in its early existence. He also won the NBA’s one-on-one contest in 1973 when Trail Blazers fans had little else to cheer about.


1975: In Lionel Hollins and Bobby Gross, Portland chose two players who started on the championship team and played a combined 12 seasons for the Trail Blazers. Also worth noting as one ray of hope for tonight’s draft is that Portland picked Gross with the 25th overall selection, two picks lower than Portland’s first-round slot tonight. Hollins and Gross also had their numbers retired by the Trail Blazers, though that’s another story altogether.


2006: Through some fantastic draft-night machinations, Portland ended up with LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy. Roy's career ended all too early but he deserves everlasting credit for restoring Portland's love of the Trail Blazers after a dark, dark era. And Aldridge of course has made four All-Star teams and earned second-team all-NBA honors this past season, all while climbing the franchise’s statistical lists. 

Speaking of Aldridge, since this week’s column has looked back, let’s look forward and predict what Aldridge will do next month on the free-agent market. Look for him to sign a one -year deal with Portland in hopes of striking it even more rich after next season as a free agent in a market with a much higher salary cap.

A native Oregonian, Hank Stern had a 24-year career in journalism, working for more than a decade as a reporter with The Associated Press in Oregon, New Jersey and Washington, DC. He worked seven years for The Oregonian as a reporter in east Multnomah County, Washington County and Portland’s City Hall. In 2005, he became Willamette Week’s managing news editor and worked there until 2011.


Related Slideshow: Oregon’s 15 Hottest Athletes

In case you've never noticed we have plenty of attractive athletes representing the state of Oregon. Here are GoLocalPDX's Top 15 in no particular order.

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Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan, 25, is a forward for the Portland Thorns. She recently signed with the club in January of 2013 after playing for the Western New York Flash and the Seattle Sounders. She rose to prominence because of her success playing for the United States women’s national soccer team. Morgan was the youngest player to represent the U.S. during the 2011 FIFA Women’s World Cup. She will once again represent team USA this summer as they prepare to head off to Canada for the 2015 FIFA Women’s World Cup.


Photo credit: Alex Morgan's Facebook page

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Meyers Leonard

Meyers Leonard, 23, was the 11th overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft. Over the past few years he has been diligently working with the Portland Trailblazer’s coaching staff in order to refine his game. The Illinois alumni’s hard work has been paying off considering he’s having the best season of his career. 


Photo credit: Meyers Leonard's Facebook page

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Kaylyn Kyle

Kaylyn Kyle, 26, is a Canadian soccer player who currently plays for the Portland Thorns. She is also a member of the Canadian women’s national team. Kyle was part of the 2012 Canadian national team that defeated France in the bronze medal game. She is also an ambassador for, Right To Play, which is an organization dedicated to using soccer as a resource to educate and empower children from disadvantaged communities.


Photo credit: Kaylyn Kyle's Facebook page

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Gaston Fernandez

Gaston Fernandez, 31, is a striker for the Portland Timbers. The club signed the Argentinian striker back in January of 2014. During his MLS debut with the Timbers he scored an equalizer goal that extended the Timbers unbeaten home record to sixteen. 


Photo credit: via forums.bigsoccer.com

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Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota, 21, is coming off one of the best seasons any Oregon Duck quarterback has ever experienced. He is the first Hawaiian-born athlete to ever win the Heisman trophy. This season he also led the Ducks to a 12-1 regular season record. Duck fans everywhere will be anxiously waiting to see where Mariota goes in this year’s NFL Draft. 


Photo credit: via Oregon Football's Facebook page

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Ellie Cribbins

Ellie Cribbins is a second year Blazer Dancer for the Portland Trailblazers. Cribbins is originally from Portland, Oregon but attended Oregon State University. This season proved to be a unique one for Cribbins since her sister also made the Blazer Dancers last August.


Photo credit: via Ellie Cribbin's Facebook page

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Jake Gleeson

Jake Gleeson, 24, is a New Zealand born goalie that is currently playing for the Portland Timbers. He signed with the club in February of 2011. Gleeson has taken pride over the past few years of being a young player who has worked his way up the ranks. 


Photo credit: via solofutbol.cl

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Janie Takeda

Janie Takeda, 21, is a senior outfielder for the University of Oregon. The Dallas Charge of the National Pro Fastpitch League recently drafted her 26th overall. Takeda was also selected to play on the United States women’s national team during the 2015 summer season. She is set to graduate from the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication this spring. 


Photo credit: Janie Takeda's Facebook page

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Damian Lillard

Damian Lillard, 24, was the NBA’s 2012 Rookie Of The Year. He was the 4th Portland Trailblazer to ever win the award. Since then he’s been named an All-Star twice, as well as an All-NBA Third Team selection. Lillard had one of the most rememberable performances in Trailblazer history after he hit a three-pointer that defeated the Houston Rockets in game 6 of the 2014 NBA Playoffs.


Photo credit: Damian Lillard's Facebook page

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Maggie Rouse

Maggie Rouse, 20, is a junior cheerleader for the University of Oregon. She just completed her third year on the team. When she tried out as a freshman she never expected to make the squad. Yet, here she is two years later. She is currently majoring in Educational Foundations. 


Photo credit: Maggie Rouse's Facebook page

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LaMarcus Aldridge

LaMarcus Aldridge, 29, is widely considered to be one of the best power-forwards in the NBA. The Texas native is averaging 23.6 points and 10.3 rebounds per game this season for the Portland Trailblazers. He is also a four-time NBA All-Star. On March 10th, 2015 Aldridge became the Trailblazers all-time leading rebounder.


Photo credit: LaMarcus Aldridge's Facebook page

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Kaytianna McMillan

Kaytianna McMillan is a gymnast for the Oregon State Beavers. Over the course of 2014 McMillan battled a series of injuries, yet she was still able to overcome them in order to become the Co-Champion of the 2014 NCAA University Park Regionals. Oregon State will be lucky to have her for the next couple of years.


Photo credit: Oregon State Athletics website

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Devon Allen

Devon Allen, 20, just completed his freshman year as a wide receiver for the Oregon Ducks. Not only is he the starting wide receiver for the Ducks he also runs track for the Oregon Outdoor Track and Field team. He recently earned a Gold Medal in the 110 meter hurdles during the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships. Although he is recovering from a torn ACL we hope to see him back on the field during the 2015-2016 season.


Phot credit: University of Oregon Facebook page

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Chase De Leo

Chase De Leo, 19, currently plays center for the Portland Winterhawks. His quickness and overall creative offensive game earned him an invite to Team USA’s selection camp back in December of 2014. Of all 30 players who were invited, he was only one of 2 WHL players.


Photo credit: Chase De Leo's Facebook page

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Darron Thomas

Darron Thomas, 24, is a professional quarterback for the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. During his college days he played for the Oregon Ducks. While starting for the Ducks he led to the team to the 2011 BCS National Championship game, as well as the 2012 Rose Bowl. The Texas native recently partook in the NFL Veteran Combine with the hope of upstarting his NFL career.


Photo credit: Portland Thunder Facebook page


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